Investing in Safety Technology for the Greatest Returns
December 20, 2019/by Barry Nelson
As the VP of Safety for Structure Tone Southwest, Dan Saddler leads a safety department comprised of regional safety managers and project leads who serve as site safety managers on large projects.
With 200 employees and $500M in business, Structure Tone Southwest is a privately held, full-service general contracting firm that has been ranked as a top ten contractor in the North Texas region.
Moving past pencil-whipping
To track and measure safety, Dan’s team previously used electronic versions of checklists which provided limited metrics. “These were just things that my crew pencil-whipped and didn’t really pay attention to,” says Dan. “Instead of going through the motions with a checklist, what I really wanted was for them to capture conversations and the coaching moments within them.”
Dan had three simple goals when it came to moving past pencil-whipping: remove barriers to use, increase engagement, and use the data.
“We had very little overall participation with field engagement from both our team and subcontractors’ field leaders.” says Dan. After speaking with multiple vendors that could track and capture trending behavioral safety issues, he found that many could do a few things well—such as correcting open issues or sharing information. But he remained unconvinced that his team would readily adopt these tools. “The one thing I knew I could not do was introduce another tool to the field or my department that would create a barrier in getting them engaged,” says Dan.
Growing Engagement from the Bottom Up
To encourage widespread field engagement, Dan held meetings with his safety professionals to identify what processes they had to capture; what they thought of current tools; and what they needed. Everyone agreed that a better tool was needed, and that the best way to gain adoption was at the grassroots level.
The processes that needed to be captured included observations, JHAs, subcontractor daily journals and the permitting process. Being able to share this data in real time was important for Dan’s safety professionals.
In 2017, Dan learned about SmartTagIt, a smartphone-based tool that automates a range of processes including those required by his team, and also enriches observations by allowing users to integrate and share photos and videos alongside the captured information. In October of that year, Dan piloted SmartTagIt with his team of safety professionals; based on the results, he decided to offer the tool to his field teams.
Dan knew that some bartering would be crucial. “Anytime you roll out anything to an older, saltier super, you’re going to get some resistance. So we asked, ‘What would help you?’ and were told ‘a subcontractor daily journal’,” says Dan. He offered to give them this capability in exchange for support on trying out SmartTagIt.
“The effort was very grassroots,” says Dan. “I had support from my leaders, but using SmartTagIt was never mandatory for the field. We just had conversations with our field leaders, and many said ‘Sure, I’ll try it.’ The usage grew organically from there.”
“We started by finding projects with safety professionals where they could help coach, capture observations, and roll out JHAs,” says Dan. “With SmartTagiIt, they were doing these processes in one-third of the time it used to take. Field leaders were also more likely to utilize it compared to the electronic forms because it was easier. They also loved the social sharing aspect because they’d get the plans and observations as soon as they occurred.”
Today, after 1.5 years, Dan has over 300 SmartTagIt users between his team, his project foremen and contractors. From 4300 observations in the first year, usage has grown to over 22,000 observations and JHAs to date, and Dan is proud of these “real numbers.”
Creating a Robust Rewards and Recognition Program
SmartTagIt has enabled more than just “real numbers” that speak to an engaged field crew. It has also led to a more robust recognition and rewards program.
“Safety 360 is our behavioral safety program, and SmartTagIt now makes it easy for us to recognize field leaders, pre-task planning and safety huddles that are being done,” says Dan. In addition to spot recognition and lunches, Dan regularly holds contests where he’ll send the top three video recordings completed through SmartTagIt to executive leadership. He’ll ask them to spend a few minutes (each video is no more than two minutes) reviewing the planning conversations and identifying what they like and why, then select a field leader and team to recognize based on these evaluations. He also encourages peer recognition at job-wide safety meetings.
Using gamification, the app also rewards key milestones—such as 10 or 25 observations—for which a user receives a $10 or $25 Amazon or Starbucks gift card. “By saying thanks for being engaged, we’re making it more fun for contractors to get better,” says Dan.
Reaping the ROI on Safety
Beyond moving past pencil-whipping to achieving (and recognizing) widespread and meaningful field engagement in safety, Dan has seen substantial business results since the implementation of SmartTagIt.
“Our immediate leadership loves the information we’re getting from utilizing the platform, and the results have been tremendous. Since using SmartTagIt, there has been a 25% reduction in accidents and injuries and 30% more man hours worked year over year from 2017 to 2018,” says Dan.
“We’re also developing our own team to be better leaders and coaching our contractors to have better planning conversations,” says Dan.